As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, March 2009.
Lingering financial fears remain in today’s climate, and they plague mortgage-industry managers. We may fear that guidelines will fail to loosen or worse, will get stricter. We may fear that next month’s pipeline is far from full, putting strain on our monthly household budgets. Or we may fear that clients’ lack of equity makes refinances nearly impossible.
One thing is for certain: If you’re feeling these fears as a manager, your team members are, as well.
While employee fears may vary from individual to individual, fear in and of itself will have a negative impact on your entire team’s productivity. Fear can be contagious like a cold or flu that spreads rapidly through the office.
If you are a manager or even a contributing player, you may ask yourself how you can help alleviate or at least manage the fear in your office when you’re fearful yourself. One way to start is to consider the ABCs of managing your fears and those of your team. These tips -- acknowledging the fear, bringing it forward and communicating real information -- can help you and your co-workers work toward a less stressful and more productive future.
A: Acknowledge the fear
The worst mistake managers can make in any crisis is to pretend that everything is hunky-dory. Ignoring the obvious external circumstances breaks the chain of trust between managers and their team.
Although it’s important to remain positive, this is only true to an extent. False cheeriness will diminish your credibility and leave others feeling fearful and alienated.
This is precisely why the first step in managing fear is to acknowledge it. This could be a simple e-mail to your team members stating, “Is it just me or is the stock market driving you crazy? And what about Bank XYZ’s decision to change its LTV? How about we all take an hour around 3 p.m. to sit down and try to make some sense of this?”
This type of message accomplishes three things.
1. It acknowledges your frustration with the economy and the industry. Your employees undoubtedly are feeling this, as well.
2. It allows you to schedule a meeting without frightening any team members, who already are nervous enough.
3. It actually could increase your credibility with your team by demonstrating that you’re neither immune from frustration nor trying to pretend that everything is just fine.
B: Bring it forward
Once you’ve acknowledged the fear, bring it into the open at an informal meeting.
Open the lines of communication by expressing that you understand that fear is running rampant. Next, engage the rest of your team by sharing your own fears. Let them know that you are terrified by your portfolio’s recent performance or something similar.
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